Tango, Samba, Jitterbug, Tap
Mad Hot Ballroom fills the Bradley Center, as 43 schools dance to be champs.
It is 1:00 in the afternoon on Saturday, and the day is only half done at the dance marathon competition known as Mad Hot Ballroom and Tap in Milwaukee. The 6th annual Danceworks-sponsored event takes over the massive floor at the Bradley Center for a kind of “Dancing with the Stars” contest, only the couples and tap-shoed contestants are much younger and have only been introduced to the steps and moves during some 12-week, twice-a-week sessions for a total of 24 hours in the time leading up to the May event.
The event, which involves more than 40 local grade schools with 2,000+ students, is a lot of fun to watch. In the stands, signs posting a school’s name are scattered around the lower half like a political convention. In these sections, there are parents, teachers, and students screaming out their loyalty to the alma mater’s team or they are encouraging the nervous participants on the floor who wait at attention for the music stylings of their particular dance to begin.
It’s observing these 4th through 6th graders’ faces during their turn on the dance floor that is the best part. They are genuinely thrilled at the attention and opportunity. They sneak glances up at the jumbotron looking to see if they are on-camera. They speak a few comforting words to their partners. At times the flustered nerves give way to wide smiles and laughter during the dance. Very often, the boys are shorter than the girls at this stage and have to reach up to the small of their partner’s back to lead them. Some kids show they have the moves down and some don’t, but it’s just getting a chance to dress up and vie for a trophy is a lot of fun for all involved.